Thursday, 31 December 2015

Donna Hay's one bowl chocolate cake: I'm converted

Today we're talking chocolate cakes.

I've tried a lot of chocolate cakes and I've tried a lot of chocolate cake recipes. This one by Donna Hay might be my all time favourite. It's quite extraordinary how a recipe that simple results in a cake that good. I know some people prefer their chocolate cake to have a light sponge and a fluffy filling, and I can respect that. This, however, is a true chocolate lover's cake. Very rich and dense and... well, perfect.

Wine is optional (but shouldn't be).

When you bake it and let it cool only slightly before serving, you'll get quite a heavenly creamy texture – exactly what you see in Donna's video. This is my favourite way of serving (and eating) it. If you refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight, however, you'll get a different texture: harder, denser, but no less delicious.

Second day texture

The recipe needs no changes and neither does the technique. I follow Donna's instructions exactly and I'm never disappointed.

I know half the chocolate cakes out there claim to be the ultimate or the best you ever had, but seriously, do yourself a favour and try this one!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Cheating on the oven: Holiday chocolate truffles

We all know those things you get as Christmas gifts that you don't really want or need. Then they just sit in some corner and collect dust while you wonder how to get rid of that ugly vase without your aunt noticing or whether you'll ever use all the fourteen pairs of sock with a deer pattern that you own by now. That's why I always liked both giving and recieving edible gifts. And if you tell me you don't really want or need these luscious chocolate truffles, I just have one thing to say to you: have you seen them?

To make 40 to 50 truffles you will need:
450 g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
250 ml whipping cream
pinch of salt
vanila extract

cocoa powder
white chocolate
dried cranberries
wheatgrass powder

Make the ganache:
Break chocolate into small pieces or chop it with a knife (even better) and put in in a heatproof bowl.

Pour the cream into a pot and heat it with the vanilla untill it just starts to simmer. Then pour it over the chocolate, add a pinch of salt and let it sit for around ten minutes. If you want to add something else, like a splash of champagne or peppermint extract, now is a good time to do it.

After the ten minutes, you can start to stir it with a whisk or spatula until you get a smooth ganache.

Take a square or rectangular cake mold (not too big or the truffles will be too flat), line it with plastic wrap and fill it with the ganache. Fold the sides of the plastic wrap over the ganache so it's sealed, then put it in the fridge for about an hour.

Prepare the toppings:

Finely chop the cranberries, then put them in the oven and let them dry at 90°C for around 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they dont get burnt. Let them cool, then grind them into a fine powder.

Grind the pistachios, then separate them into two halves and add half a teaspoon of wheatgrass powder to one half to get a more vivid green colour. My pistachios were already roasted so they had were yellow when ground, but if you use fresh ones, you'll get a green powder without using wheatgrass.

Grind the white chocolate and pecans, too.

Top (left to right): pistachios with wheatgrass powder, pecans, pistachios, cranberries
Bottom: white chocolate, cocoa powder

Note: when choosing the toppings, note that some things tend to stick to the truffles better then others. Cocoa powder does the job superbly, while pecans were quite a pain in the butt to work with. I have to say I was also impressed with the cranberry powder – it's easy to work with and I love the taste and colour.

Make the truffles: 
Now it's time to get your hands dirty, so get the ganache out of the fridge, unwrap it and place it on a cutting board.

If you own one of those small scoops, you can make ball shaped truffles. The scoop will give them a sort of round shape, but to get them perfectly round, you'll need to use your hands to roll them. I actually suggest using latex gloves to do this, because chocolate won't stick to them as much as it would to your skin and it will make the process much less messy.

By far the easiest and quickest shape to do, however, is cubes. They require no special equipement, as a knife is all you need. Get a glass of hot water and a paper towel, so you can keep your knife hot (and dry!). Before you start cutting the ganache into cubes, smoothen the top of the ganache with the knife and make sure the sides are even, too.

Cover the truffles in your toppings and voilà - you are now ready to impress your friends and family with these homemade beauties.

Use as holiday gifts or serve as after dinner treats.